Born in 1965 in Providence, Rhode Island, Ellen Gallagher is one of the most acclaimed contemporary painters to have emerged from North America. Her paintings, collages, drawings, sculpture, animation and film installations, which shift between abstraction and figuration, create dynamic encounters between the historic and the present through commentary about race, racism, and cultural identity. Her works explore the language of Modernist painting with symbolic or narrative content, often touching on issues of representation - for example, her 2006 piece Bird in Hand, which forms a central part of this appraisal, is a complex relief built up in layers on canvas through the application of newspaper cuttings and advertisements, plasticine, rock crystals, silver paint and gold leaf, created to evoke the mythical Drexciya or Black Atlantis, an underwater world populated by a marine species descended from drowned slaves.
Created in close dialogue with the artist, this book catalogues a unique opportunity to present a selective yet coherent overview of Gallagher’s practice, bringing together significant works from the early 1990s to the present day and examining some of the key themes and issues that emerge, overlap, repeat and interweave throughout her practice.
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